Trump-Backed Leaders Take Helm at RNC After McDaniel Exits
Trump-Backed Leaders Take Helm at RNC After McDaniel Exits

By Lawrence Wilson

HOUSTON—The Republican National Committee (RNC) has elected new leadership endorsed by former President Donald Trump after Ronna McDaniel, the group’s longest-serving chair, stepped down on March 8.

Michael Whatley, chair of the North Carolina Republican Party whom President Trump endorsed last month to lead the RNC, was elected by a voice vote to succeed Ms. McDaniel at the committee’s spring meeting in Houston, Texas. He ran unopposed.

Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law who also ran unopposed, was elected co-chair by a voice vote.

The leadership overhaul comes just days after President Trump dominated the Republican presidential primaries held on Super Tuesday on March 5, solidifying his hold on the Republican nomination and the party itself.

The RNC named President Trump the “presumptive nominee” a day later, after his final challenger, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, suspended her campaign.

Mr. Whately noted that the world is a “much more dangerous place” than it was four years ago.

“Peace through strength is more than just a great campaign slogan from Ronald Reagan It is a recognition that the world is a much more dangerous place when America is weak,” Mr. Whatley said after he was elected chair.

About the election, Mr. Whatley said the RNC would be laser-focused on getting out the vote and protecting the ballot.

That involves engaging new and independent voters, registering new Republican voters, and getting them to the polls, he said.

“We will work relentlessly in every state to ensure that it is easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

Lara Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at Gaylord National Resort Hotel And Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 22, 2024. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Ms. Trump succinctly summarized the role of the RNC: “We have one goal. The goal is to win and, as my father-in-law says, win bigly.”

In her farewell to the committee, Ms. McDaniel touted her achievements of the past seven years and pleaded with the party to display unity as it moves into the 2024 election.

“We don’t always agree, but we do agree on the vision for our country. We’re doing the right thing and protecting the American people.” Ms. McDaniel said, and then gave a litany of positive achievements including record fundraising over the last two months, making inroads with Black and Hispanic voters, and launching an election integrity division within the RNC.

“I’m going to ask you to join me in uniting for the next eight months and committing everything you have to make sure that we keep the House, we win the Senate, and we take back the White House and reelect President Trump,” Ms. McDaniel concluded. She received a standing ovation for her service.

Fresh Blood

President Trump endorsed Mr. Whatley for the post on Feb. 12, before Ms. McDaniel announced her intention to step down, although her decision had been rumored.

The former president’s intention in previewing his leadership picks appears to be making the national committee more effective in ensuring victory after the outcome of the 2020 election and the disappointing Republican performance in the 2022 midterms.

“The RNC MUST be a good partner in the Presidential election. It must do the work we expect from the national Party and do it flawlessly. That means helping to ensure fair and transparent elections across the country, getting out the vote everywhere—even in parts of the country where it won’t be easy—and working with my campaign, as the Republican presumptive nominee for President, to win this election and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” President Trump said in a statement.

President Trump expressed confidence in Mr. Whatley’s ability to lead the party effectively.

“I think my friend Michael Whatley should be the RNC’s next leader. Michael has been with me from the beginning, has done a great job in his home state of North Carolina, and is committed to election integrity, which we must have to keep fraud out of our election so it can’t be stolen,” President Trump said in a Feb. 12 statement.

Mr. Whatley is general counsel for the North Carolina Republican Party in addition to chairman. He was a senior official in the administration of President George W. Bush and served as chief of staff for former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.).

Ms. Trump is married to President Trump’s younger son, Eric Trump.

In addition to Mr. Whatley and Ms. Trump, President Trump also endorsed Chris LaCivita, one of his senior advisers, for chief operating officer of the RNC.

“This group of three is highly talented, battle-tested, and smart. They have my complete and total endorsement to lead the Republican National Committee,” President Trump said.

In It to Win

Ms. Trump has said she would use the RNC to further her father-in-law’s reelection.

“The RNC needs to be the leanest, most lethal political fighting machine we’ve ever seen in American history,” she said in a televised Newsmax interview on Feb. 14. She added that she would spend “every single penny” of RNC funds to reelect President Trump.

Ms. Trump later told The Epoch Times in an exclusive interview that she would mount a ballot-harvesting campaign in this election, something Republicans have been averse to in the past.

“We need to have the biggest legal ballot harvesting operation this country has ever seen,” Ms. Trump said. “It feels, for a long time, like the Democrats have been playing chess and we’ve been playing checkers,” she said. Her goal is for the Republican Party “to be the opposite, to be steps ahead of them, and on our toes, and ahead of the game, and facing forward the whole time.”

Ballot harvesting, legal in some states, allows people to deliver absentee or mail-in ballots to drop-off points on behalf of other voters. Republicans have been skeptical of the procedure, fearing it would lead to election fraud. Democrats have been much more willing to use the strategy.

“Whether or not Democrats do it legally, that’s up for discussion,” Ms. Trump said, adding that it’s time for Republicans to start “attacking the game differently.”

Ms. McDaniel, a niece of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), was the longest-service leader of the Republican Party since the Civil War. She previously served as chair of the Michigan Republican Party. She resigned on March 4.

“I have decided to step aside at our Spring Training on March 8 in Houston to allow our nominee to select a chair of their choosing,” Ms. McDaniel said in her resignation announcement. “I remain committed to winning back the White House and electing Republicans up and down the ballot in November.”

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